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Family of slain Long Beach man outraged over police shooting, plans to file suit [Updated]

Candlelight vigil for Douglas Zerby, December 13, at the scene of a Sunday officer-involved shooting.

The family of a 35-year-old Long Beach man shot and killed by police while holding a hose nozzle plans to file a lawsuit against the Long Beach Police Department, the slain man's father said Tuesday.

Doug Zerby, 35, was killed Sunday while sitting on a stoop playing with what police said appeared to be a weapon and pointing it as if it were a gun. But Zerby's family said the police acted irresponsibly, and they are outraged over what happened.

“This has got to stop,” said Mark Zerby. “If we have police doing this stuff, they need to be thoroughly screened. We’re hiring them to protect our lives, not take our lives.”

An evening vigil at the scene of the shooting Monday brought out droves of supporters with candles, flowers and messages.

Several mourners yelled “murder” to passing spectators and wrote invectives to Long Beach police on posters near the candlelight. One message read: "LBPD = Shoot First Ask Questions Later That’s Murder."

Zerby had been sitting on a friend's porch Sunday afternoon, waiting for the friend to come home because he was too drunk to drive. A neighbor saw him waving around a gun-like object and called the police.

Police officials said the object was actually a pistol-grip water nozzle, and when it was pointed directly at an officer, the officers opened fire, killing Zerby at the scene.

The police department, which has a history of frequent officer-involved shootings, had no new information Tuesday morning.

“All this information is preliminary,” said Sgt. Dina Zapalski, a spokeswoman for the Long Beach Police Department. “We can’t have exact answers on everything within 24 hours.”

[Updated at 2:18 p.m.: The family is beginning to conduct its own investigation into the incident, relatives said.

“We’ve hired a private doctor to investigate my brother’s body, a photographer to shoot photographs of him and the crime scene, and a team of private forensic investigators is being assembled,” said Zerby’s sister Eden Marie Biele.

She said her family has been approached by at least nine attorneys, over the phone and in person, hoping to represent the family. She said they will be spending the day deciding which one to retain.

“We feel that this is a case of wrongful death. My brother was murdered in cold blood,” she said. “The Long Beach Police Department needs to be held accountable, and justice needs to prevail on behalf of my brother.

"Hopefully we can help them prevent another family from having to go through another tragedy like this.”]


Man killed by Long Beach police was holding water nozzle, not gun

-- Nardine Saad

Photo: Candlelight vigil for Douglas Zerby, a Long Beach native shot and killed by police, on Monday. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (156)

No way! I am totally shocked that they would sue the city...What self-respecting lawyer would represent them? Oh, wait, DUUUUUUH......

"Only criminals, cops, prosecutors, judges, politicians, the rich, and their friends should have guns."

That is the current state of things. Aren't we glad the law is on our side?

These cops messed up big time.

Sorry...but if someone is pointing something at armed officers that could even possibly look like a gun...then you have to ask yourself...who's really to blame? While officers are here to serve and protect...they're still human and they still value their own lives! They have families too and they have to protect themselves. This is just an unfortunate situation and I'm very sorry that a man lost his life over it!

Not to excuse the officer in lieu of more facts, but it's probably not a great idea to point anything at a cop while drunk. Just sayin'.

Geez, another tradgedy with booze involved. Suprise suprise.

Neighbor calls police because man is pointing gun-like object at passerbys.

Cops respond to "man with gun call"

Cops arrive and drunk man doesn't listen/keeps waving "gun", POINTS IT AT OFFICERS.

Are they supposed to wait and see what comes out of the "gun" the drunk man is pointing at them? It can't possibly be the fault of the drunk guy waving a metal object at police officers whose neighbor called to report him waving a gun, can it?

Really people, exercise your right to use your brain once in a while. Being blitzed and aiming a gun-shaped obect at cops.... THEY WILL SHOOT YOU.

Sorry for your loss, but duh. It's nobody's fault but his own. Good ol' California, the state of It Must Be Someone Else's Fault.

My heartfelt condolances to the friends and relatives of Doug Zerby. I suppose we all need to come to grips with the realization that we are under the authority of a police state who is accountable to no one. Say my neighbor who is a heroine addict, often stoned and in his own imaginary reality, (and, oddly enough, is always being let-go by the police), say he decides one evening that he is tired of me trying to get him into a recovery program... I am out in front of my house watering the lawn with a pistol grip sprinkler. He calls 911 and reports that I have threatened him with a gun and have him pinned down in his house. I know nothing of this, the police come screetching up from all directions, I turn toward them to see what all of the commotion is all about, sprinkler in hand... and the rest you can read about in the Whittier Daily News.... and the obituary column...

Will a lawsuit will bring him back?

Yep, this was 100% the fault of the police. Couldn't possibly be the fault of the drunk man waving a pistol-like item in his hand at the police.

Its depressing how people refuse to take responsibility in life. Blaming those who showed up to protect us is just plain embarrassing.

The neighbor thought it was a gun and calls police. Why is a a surprise when the police believe it is a gun especially the dumb cluck points it at them.

Where do you draw the line with "what if" and the officer's life? If you are a police officer and a drunk man appears to be drawing a gun on you, what are you supposed to do? I support the officer and blame the drunk guy for creating this tragic situation.

This is not television. This is real life and bad behavior has consequences.

Why do we read about this oh so often?...Seems every other day there is an officer involved shooting going on. Thugs or not, we are all human beings.

Best wishes to the families of this victim.

killer cops, what's new? condolences to the family.

Cover up must be in full effect now....next thing they will say that that hose thing was covered up plasma rifle and had a targeted laser beam and he night vision contact lenses too.

The shooter will get a nice pension am sure..from the state for killing

The police acted appropriately. An individual who chooses to become intoxicated and then point a gun-like object at strangers is putting himself in an extremely dangerous position. This is a tragic result, but Zerby created the situation that got him killed.

My sympathy & prayers go out to the family. Too many police out there with itchy triger fingers.

Garden Nozzles don't kill people......people kill people.

I wish they would stop filteting out post's and just let people say what is on their mind.

I am very sorry for the family who lost their loved one, but it's not really the LBPD's fault.. He held a "pistol gripped" hose and was "pointing" it at police, what did you expect them to do put their gun's down and say ok you win.. no they shot him.. and rightfully so..

Dear LA Times, I have not used any curse words in this post, why must you insist on only posting posting that go allong with your beleifs?

Police are trained to defend themselves, and you can hardly blame them.
Pointing anything that looks like a gun - be it toy or water nozzle - at police is more than just a bad idea. It's fatal.

Nobody can deny that this event was a horrible tragedy. Condolences to the family. But what you everyone has to realize is that they officers saw what appeared to be a weapon. Everyone has seen what a hose nozzle looks like. It can easily be mistaken for a gun. An officer (or anyone) is not going to walk up to a drunk person, holding what appears to be a weapon, to verify if it is one or not! By the time they got up to him or her, it would be too late. And for the person to point it at officers, they had no choice but to assume the worst, and assume it was a gun. If anyone points ANYTHING at me, am I to assume it's a water hose nozzle and just walk up to them without caution????

Deepest sympathy to the family for their loss. No one wins here. Suing is not going to change anything except perhaps weaken our protection when law enforcement is too afraid to come to the next call.
What does society expect? These law enforcement officers put their lives on the line everyday. Everyday they are confronted with situations that the average citizen could not navigate. Put yourself in their shoes before judging the actions taken.
When do we as adults start to take responsibility for our actions and the possible consequences of such?

funny how everyone is forgetting the fact that this guy was "too drunk to go home" so maybe he was too drunk to listen to officers instructions, like put your hands in the air... obviously the neighbor was scared enough to call the cops so how exactly was this guy acting? yes it's an unfortunate incident-accidently shot is the key word here folks... as for those protesters with their signs -- these are same folks making a fuss when the cops don't show up for a noise disturbance call, or when they don't show up to shoo the homeless away ... I wonder every day why anyone would want to be a Police Officer ? it's a thankless job and not worth the trouble!

I am so sorry for his family and friends. But we have police to do the job we don't want to do or can't do for a reason. But when you brandish anything that resembles a gun, prepare to be shot. Anyone would do the same thing in order to protect their own life. I feel very sorry for the police officer(s) as well. They have to live with that action for the rest of their lives.

I hope the good citizens of Long Beach remember this incident when the local police union comes around to demanding raises and other bloated compensation benefits - all in the name of hard work and public "service".

You may not be able to protect yourselves from trigger-happy police officers intent on getting their commando-rush, but you sure can fight them on the budget. Exercise your rights.

My condolences to the Zerby family.

Sorry for the guy's family, but if you point something like a gun at a cop you are asking for it. The cop wants to go home to his family at night.

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